ONE of Irvine's MSPs has urged the council to adopt a long-term strategy to improve exam results - after pass rates dropped by 15 per cent last year.

MSP Margaret McDougall has written to North Ayrshire Council asking them to improve on their education record and create a vision that leaves a “lasting legacy of opportunities” for school pupils.

The council have recently successfully bid for funding through the Scottish Government’s Attainment Challenge fund but the Labour member believes this is not going to solve the issues as the fund is only temporary.

She said: “A good education opens so many doors for young people and that’s why it is so concerning to see attainment levels in North Ayrshire falling.

“The Scottish Government’s Attainment Challenge, whilst welcome, is not enough to secure a lasting legacy of opportunities for current and future generations of school pupils inNorth Ayrshire.

“Like so many such schemes the funding is temporary, the question is what happens when the funding runs out? I believe North Ayrshire Council must plan for that day and use its Attainment Challenge funding to develop a longterm attainment strategy that they can deliver on their own.

“I know that they plan to copy Glasgow City Council’s very successful nurture programme which is helping pupils in some of the most deprived areas of the city to do better at school.

“However, the Labour administration in Glasgow is investing millions of pounds on nurture in addition to their education budget and my understanding is that North Ayrshire Council plan to fund their nurture programme from existing education resources, meaning that funding will be cut from elsewhere in the education budget to fund nurture.

“Giving how important education is to young people’s life chances, driving up attainment must become a greater priority for the Scottish Government and North Ayrshire Council.” A council spokesperson responded: “We are firmly committed to ensuring we continue to drive improvements, raise attainment and ensure equality for all children throughout North Ayrshire.

“The funding we will receive from the Scottish Government Attainment Challenge Fund will be used to build a long-term strategy to improve attainment and achievement.

“Further investment will be targeted towards improving the skills of our staff. High quality learning and teaching is recognised as the key to ensuring improved outcomes for children and young people. Therefore, improving staff skills in the teaching of literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing will be the foundation of a long term strategy to improve outcomes.

“The approaches along with nurture initiatives are recognised as best practice and have been shown to deliver improved outcomes for children.

“This work will extend outwith the classroom recognising the contribution parents and communities can make to the long term outcomes for children and young people. Nurture approaches are also recognised as making a significant contribution to improving outcomes for children, young people and their families.

“It is important that North Ayrshire learns from what works and that is why they will invest to ensure all our schools and establishments are nurturing.

“Attainment currently has fallen in some measures but improved in others. It is important to recognise that while work requires to be undertaken to improve attainment and achievement, many young people leaving our schools are equipped with the skills and qualifications to be successful.

“Every piece of work we undertake is designed to close the attainment gap and achieve equality for children across North Ayrshire. Our children should have no poverty of aspiration, ambition or opportunity.

“They are our future and we are building teams around them to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of their domestic circumstances.”